I'm searching for a way to describe this:

When using "quotes", one character is used twice: "

When using (parentheses), two characters are used once: ( )

Is there a word for this property? Common language, grammar, vocabulary?

Sentence Examples:

" The quotes that exist before and after this sentence are the same character. "

( The parentheses that exist before and after this sentence are two separate characters. )

How can I explain this "difference" in a word (or maybe a few)? Thanks!

  • I think you're going in the wrong direction; this is a single character which can fulfill more than one role, rather than two identical (but somehow distinct?) characters. So perhaps multi-use would fit.
    – Davo
    Jan 10, 2018 at 16:21
  • Are you saying that ( and ) are actually just one character? If so I'm not sure I understand that? I edited my question to try to make it clearer.
    – llun
    Jan 10, 2018 at 17:38
  • ' is a single quote character. It can be used to show the start of a passage, or the end of a passage, or sometimes even to represent a prime (A vs A') on systems with limited character sets. This single character can perform multiple functions without having multiple names. Just like the single character lowercase x can be a letter in a word or indicate multiplication (2 x 3 = 6).
    – Davo
    Jan 10, 2018 at 17:43
  • @dairc Can you explain to me how to grey in text like that? What's the code. [sorry, I know this is off topic].
    – Lambie
    Jan 10, 2018 at 17:47
  • 1
    @Davo Thanks. This makes sense and I understand. Perhaps my question is asking for something that doesn't exist (yet)- like a word to describe the difference between older/newer conventions that are both still accepted/relevant? I suppose these inherent distinctions are implied while not explicit and whether or not a modern keyboard, or writer types/writes a " in two different ways, we can say it's still implied if the purpose is implied. Wow.. appreciate it.
    – llun
    Jan 10, 2018 at 18:26

1 Answer 1


From Wikipedia: (with my emphasis)

Regarding the aspect, there are two types of quotation marks:

'…' and "…", are known as neutral, vertical, straight, typewriter, "dumb", or "ASCII" quotation marks. The left and right marks are identical. These are found on typical English typewriters and computer keyboards, although they are sometimes automatically converted to the other type by software.

‘…’ and “…”, are known as typographic, curly, curved, book, or "smart" quotation marks. The beginning marks are commas raised to the top of the line and rotated 180°. The ending marks are commas raised to the top of the line. Curved quotation marks are used mainly in manuscript, printing and typesetting. Type cases (of any language) always have the correct quotation marks metal types for the respective language and never the vertical quotation marks metal types.

EDIT: It just occurred to me that rather than asking for the name of each type, you might be asking about the name of the property, which includes both options. If so, you could extend the descriptors used above to have "neutrality", "verticality", "straightness" or "dumbness" perhaps.

  • Thanks this is very helpful and on the right track to what I'm asking. However, isn't there some word like "symmetrical" (i know this is not correct) that you would call either "the same opening and closing character" or 'different opening and closing character'?
    – llun
    Jan 10, 2018 at 15:17
  • I think an example sentence, added in an edit to your question, would help a lot. Jan 10, 2018 at 15:40
  • I up-voted this reply but since I'm new it doesn't show yet I think. The more I think about your answer makes sense. I found this description to "delimiter matching" that applies to math / coding: link But my search is for an English word and perhaps "neutrality" is the best, or maybe "neutral characters" or something, thanks again.
    – llun
    Jan 10, 2018 at 15:58

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